CEDAR RAPIDS — It didn’t take long for the Cedar Rapids Police Department’s new Police Community Action Team to make it’s presence known.
Within an hour of hitting the streets on Jan. 9 — the team’s first night of service — the squad arrested a subject with a gun in an apartment complex. Over the past week, the team arrested people on 16 different warrants.
“They’ve been kicking butt and taking names,” said Sgt. Doug Doyle, PCAT’s commander.
Just as importantly, Doyle said, the team has been meeting with community members and getting their name out there to build relationships in the neighborhoods.
Chief Wayne Jerman formally announced the team at a news conference Wednesday at the police department, 10 months after the city council approved funding to hire four new officers, allowing Jerman to shift four veteran officers to PCAT. Doyle said the officers — selected after a competitive process — have between three and 10 years of experience and backgrounds in gang identification and narcotics investigations.
“This specialized unit will be comprised of a sergeant and four officers, whose focus will be to tackle whatever problems are identified in various neighborhoods and communities,” Jerman said, adding the team will, “focus on crime trends and also address quality of life issues.”
Jerman said the team will be a tool to address ongoing gun violence in the city. There were 100 shots fired incidents in the city in 2015, up from 96 the year before.
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“The statistics don’t lie,” Mayor Ron Corbett said during the news conference. “Gun violence incidents are up in Cedar Rapids.”
Added Corbett, “We could say that we’re like other communities, because that is true ... It may make us feel better, but it doesn’t solve the problem.”
Jerman and Doyle said the team will be “highly visible” and work in uniform. Their hours will be flexible and they’ll be able to respond on short notice as problems arise, Jerman said. The team will work independently of normal patrol officers, but usage of the team will be determined in conjunction with patrol Capt. Jeff Hembera.
“PCAT will be a very proactive team of officers,” Jerman said. “They have already been in operations in a few short weeks and have had a number of successes to date.”
Doyle said one of the team’s first priorities will be addressing violence crimes in the city.
Corbett said PCAT will be one facet of the city’s approach to addressing violent crime in the city, announcing that on Tuesday, the city council unanimously approved the creation of a task force that will combine the efforts of various community groups that are looking at the root causes of gun violence. The Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities Task will look at economic disparities and opportunities, programming in the city, youth services, housing policies and non-profit organizations, said Stacey Walker, one of the group’s co-chairs.